Below is a conversation on support and healing, between myself and organizer and therapist, Iresha. To read more of Iresha’s views on trauma and healing, please read: Thoughts on Mental-Health and Revolution
Iresha: Hey jodi. You were in New Orleans for a while. What made you go and live there?
jodi: I initially went to New Orleans to make connections with Post-Katrina survivors and organizers regarding organizing I’m doing with People’s Relief. I planned to stay for about a week. But I ended up living there for several weeks.
I found myself in a community that took spiritual and healing work very seriously. The pace of NYC had been really starting to get to me. And I always wondered why people were content with healing being compartmentalized, individualized, and existing predominantly inside institutions.
I found awesome community with folks who were practicing autonomous collective healing. Things weren’t perfect, and I have some critiques. But in so many ways, I had a very liberating experience. And I’m very hopeful for the possibilities of healing to be acknowledged as a necessary component of resistance and struggle on a mass level.
Iresha: That sounds amazing!
jodi: You were also considering living in New Orleans. How long have you considered that?
Iresha: I have been thinking about it for awhile—about a year now. But I make dough here in Philly. And while we cannot chase the dollar, I have a brother that I’m trying to get free. And that means making money to pay for lawyers, commissary, and helping to take care of his new-born baby.
jodi: That’s so real! I’ve been thinking about how political work can manifest in a way that doesn’t take away from caring for our communities. And how caring for our communities is not minimized as something we do that takes away from the “real struggle.” I brought it up at a FNT-NYC meeting that Zora attended. It’s a conversation I’d love to have with FNT folks in New York and Philly. I’m getting to the point where I am rejecting false choices that I’m coerced to make because activist culture is not sustainable or transformative enough to hold us all.
Iresha: Yes! I like that. I am at a point right now, where I want the work to be sustainable and effective. I think at this point, I need to slow down quite a bit for it to happen. I was going HARD as an organizer for many years, without any rest, while working full-time. I can’t do that anymore, because I was not healing my own wounds. Wounds that were exposing themselves more and more, as I kept fighting, and fighting. As organizers, we take the healing part out of the center. And yet we see so many people, leave the work, due to lack of self-care, or because they find it unsustainable.
jodi: I think the healing needs to remain at the center. There needs to be a fierce mass of people who understand trauma and healing. Obscuring or minimizing trauma and healing is one of the problems I have with the Left. I also think it’s anti-feminist and helps keep the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy right in place! I think we need to heal to resist. And we need to resist to heal. We need nuanced infrastructure to recognize when some or all of us need to slow down, or pause, or speed up. We need more intention and precision, and to stop running in quicksand…. not realizing that we’re not going anywhere.
To me, organizing is about violence, trauma, healing, resistance, and transformation. And it’s also real that freeing your brother and caring for his child is a part of your struggle, which in my mind, means it should be a part of “our” struggle. I feel a similar way about caring for my child. But the white heterosexual cisgender male dominated Left taught me real quick that my struggles to heal from sexual and domestic violence, navigate the world experiencing disabilities, and care for my child were my own damn business! And that I had to make a choice between being an organizer or being my full self. But how are patterns and norms of capitalism, liberalism, and dominant culture being interrupted if we are being made to believe that caring for our loved ones is something we’re supposed to do by ourselves, and in private? (Or if you’re lucky with a few family members or friends here and there.)
Iresha: Yes, yes, yes! I love this whole notion of trauma recovery and healing being at the middle of our struggles. I find in the Left, that black folks trauma is different from white folks trauma, and being able to afford healing, and having spaces to talk about your struggles are a privilege in this movement. One that we black mamas and black folks cannot afford—financially or mentally. I have been apart of all black organizations, and that shit is a mess! You have so many folks, leading the work, who are in so much pain and have so much trauma, that they hinder the whole movement. And of course, we never speak of healing. Shit becomes normalized, and we’re still scratching our heads, as to why we can’t collectively move forward.
jodi: Healing is strategic. Healing is necessary if liberation is really our goal. Healing is necessary to break patterns of ahistoricism, because healing requires that we remember! If people are trying to forget personal or collective trauma, or even historical trauma, then how can we really say we are trying to shift power, hold oppressors accountable, and transform? But the Left, which barely if at all, succeeds at breaking patterns and norms of society at large, uses so many insidious tactics to coerce us to forget, or to muddle our memories: euphemisms, minimizing, victim blaming, etc. I refuse to forget! But it’s real that sitting with the truth hurts, which is why I also reject that healing is something that needs to be elite or privileged. So I’m going to be on that radical feminist autonomous anti-capitalist healing tip from here on out.
Werking out in NOLA!
We resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don’t want power over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear. That’s revolution.
Over the weekend, three unknown attackers cornered Sharmeka Moffitt, set her on fire and then scrawled racial slurs on her car, Winnsboro, Louisiana, police confirmed Monday.
Winnsboro Police Chief Kevin Cobb said the FBI was investigating whether the incident was a hate crime. Authorities were reluctant classify the attack as “racially motivated,” although the spray-painted “KKK” should be a dead giveaway.
Still, police say, Moffitt was unable to determine the skin color of her attackers.
It’s “a horrific event,” Cobb told the News Star. “We will follow the facts and seek justice.”
Joining forces in the investigation are the Franklin Parish Sheriff, Louisiana State Police and the state fire Marshall’s office, reports local news station KNOE.
It’ll be a long road to recovery for Moffitt, who, amazingly, survived the attack. A family friend told reporters Moffitt, just 20 years old, had burns on 90 percent of her body and was currently in stable condition.
But the support is pouring in. By Monday afternoon, a Facebook group called Prayers for Sharmeka Moffitt had nearly 10,000 likes.
If we could link up erry gang
And niggas is willing to bear the pain
We’d put the White House lights out today
We mobbin’ like we the black KKK
Don’t forget my AKA Mayday
Pee on your P-H-D or your AA
—Terrorist Threats - Ab-Soul ft Jhene Aiko & Danny Brown (via ninjabikeslut)